Thanks for all the help finding those churches¯brick, modern, disappointing; too empty of ideas even to be awful¯that seem to mark too much of Catholic architecture in the United States. The emails have come pouring in, and it’s going to take me a day or so to sort them out before I can make a dependable list. (And what’s up with Mary, Mother of the Church in Burnsville, Minnesota? By far the most-nominated building.)
Meanwhile, however, I’ve been thinking of the flip side: the prettiest Catholic churches in America¯small gems rather than grand cathedrals, for preference, and possessing a unity of interior space and exterior presence.
At first thought¯not a well-considered list, just something to get moving¯there’s Saints Peter & Paul in San Francisco , with its confectionary spires precariously swirled atop a drab cake. The Renaissance Revival of St. Mary of the Angels in Chicago, nine-foot guardian angels at watch on its red-brick battlements. The California late-Baroque exaggeration¯ really narrow nave, really high ceiling¯of the Carmel of the Infant Jesus in Santa Clara . The innovative Gothic at play in the interior of St. Vincent Ferrer , a steepleless Dominican church up Lexington Avenue in New York. Old St. Patrick’s in New Orleans . The new Federalist-style adoration chapel added seamlessly to St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Sioux Falls. The restored interior of Latrobe’s first basilica in Baltimore. The stone retreat chapel at¯could there be a better name?¯ St. Edmund’s Enders Island , Mystic, Connecticut.
Please do email your own nominations¯for both the dull and the pretty¯to firstname.lastname@example.org .